BUSCH: Kentucky Speedway preview

Run For The Riches: The 2004 $1.29 million "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" purse is the largest in Kentucky Speedway history. The race winner will receive a minimum share of $86,785. The purse ranks second among NBS stand-alone events this season...

Run For The Riches: The 2004 $1.29 million "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" purse is the largest in Kentucky Speedway history. The race winner will receive a minimum share of $86,785. The purse ranks second among NBS stand-alone events this season and sixth overall behind Gateway International Raceway and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series companion events at Daytona, Las Vegas, Texas and California.

The Main Event: NASCAR Busch Series weekend at Kentucky Speedway is one of the largest sporting events in the state and the largest sporting event in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area. The NASCAR Busch Series alone has helped Kentucky Speedway set the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky single sports event attendance record twice by attracting a crowd of 70,336 in 2001 and a crowd of 71,299 in 2002. The 2003 crowd of 69,366 marked the third consecutive sellout for the event. The three-race NBS race attendance total is 211,001, good for an average of 70,333. The speedway's official grandstand capacity is 66,089.

Second Time Around: Family-owned Meijer Stores and Supercenters are in the second year of a five-year title sponsorship agreement with the NBS event at Kentucky Speedway. Meijer celebrates its 70th Anniversary this season and continues to expand its motorsports presence. Meijer will sponsor the No.22 Ford driven by Jason Keller in "The Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" and also supports the American Speed Association racing program of Toby Porter. The company was the title sponsor of the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series entry of Robby Gordon in this season's Indianapolis 500 and will be the presenting sponsor of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race at Chicagoland Speedway later this summer. Meijer also owns the right of first refusal for title sponsorship of a NNCS race at Kentucky Speedway, should the venue be added to a future schedule. Meijer is "The Official Supercenter of Kentucky Speedway."

Marvelous Marvin: Cincinnati Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis is "The Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" grand marshal. The 45-year-old second-year head coach was credited with one of the most impressive turnarounds in NFL history last season when he improved the ailing franchise's record from 2-14 to 8-8 in his first season. Lewis also is active in Cincinnati communities with his Marvin Lewis Charity Fund and his most recent philanthropic creation, The Quarterback Club.

Born and Bred: The 2004 edition of "The Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" will feature five drivers born and bred in the Bluegrass State. David Green, Mark Green and Michael Waltrip all hail from Owensboro, Ky. Stuart Kirby is a native of Bowling Green, Ky., and Jamie Mosley is from London, Ky.

He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother: Three brother combinations are expected to attempt to qualify for the 2004 "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo." Mike and Kenny Wallace will join David and Mark Green and Jay and Johnny Sauter this weekend at Kentucky Speedway.

When You're A Celebrity: No less than three reality television shows may be recording drivers Kenny Wallace, David Stremme, Casey Atwood, Tim Fedewa, Shawna Robinson and Stanton Barrett this weekend during "The Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo." Wallace is one of the subjects of "NASCAR Drivers 360" on FX, Atwood, Fedewa and Stremme are the subjects of "NBS 24/7" on SPEED Channel and Robinson and Barrett are the subjects of "The Reality of Speed" on SPIKE TV.

Aren't You...?: With NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series track activity ceasing around noon on Saturday, several prominent series drivers with NASCAR Busch Series interests may be on the pit boxes of their respective teams on June 19 at Kentucky Speedway. Rusty Wallace owns the No.66 Duraflame Dodge of Billy "Catfish" Parker and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., owns the No.8 Taco Bell/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet of Martin Truex, Jr. Joe Nemechek is fielding a NEMCO entry for driver Blake Feese.

Fabulous Field: The 2004 "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" marks the first time more than two NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver will compete in the Kentucky field. Cup regulars Greg Biffle, Robby Gordon, Kasey Kahne, Johnny Sauter and Michael Waltrip are scheduled to join part-time circuit drivers Derrike Cope and Johnny Benson in the 43-car NBS field. The NNCS series will compete at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday, June 20. Kevin Harvick was the first NNCS driver to visit Kentucky Speedway in 2001 and he scored an inaugural event win. Harvick split time between Kentucky Speedway and Pocono Raceway that weekend. Todd Bodine and Joe Nemechek competed in 2002. Nemechek was unable to finish the NBS race when rain forced the Saturday evening race to be completed on Sunday. Bodine continued at Kentucky Speedway and took the win. The 57-driver "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" entry list is the largest in Kentucky Speedway history. It also is the largest NBS list so far this season. The NBS set the previous Kentucky Speedway entry record at 50 drivers in 2002 and 2001.

Ford's Revenge: Defending "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" champion Bobby Hamilton, Jr., broke Chevrolet's stranglehold on Kentucky Speedway's Victory Lane last season when he guided his No.25 Team Marines Racing Taurus to a win over Jason Keller. Ford enters this weekend as the NBS endurance leader at Kentucky. To date, 81 percent of the 26 Fords entered in Kentucky Speedway fields were running at the end of the 200-lap race. Chevrolet is fourth in percentage of NBS entries running at Kentucky at 64 percent, but Chevy owns the most all-time NBS entries at the track with 87. Chevy drivers lead in NBS Kentucky earnings after collecting $2,001,110 through three events. Ford ranks second in track NBS earnings with $776,140.

Champion's Challenge: Defending "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" champion Bobby Hamilton, Jr., can become the first driver to successfully defend a Kentucky Speedway NBS title this weekend. After inaugural champion Kevin Harvick departed for full-time duty in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series following his 2001 Kentucky Speedway win, Todd Bodine, the 2002 champion, was the only driver to attempt a Kentucky title defense and he needed a 24th-hour sponsorship endorsement to enter the race. Bodine started 14th and finished 29th in 2003 after completing 179 of 200 race laps. Should Hamilton, Jr., score a win in this year's "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" he would be the fourth driver to successfully defend a Kentucky Speedway title. Indy Racing League IndyCar Series inaugural winner Buddy Lazier won Kentucky races in August of both 2000 and 2001. NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division Southeast Series driver Jeff Fultz swept races in June and August of 2001. Scott Carlson also generated repeat NAEDSS wins in 2002 and 2003. ARCA RE/MAX Series driver Frank Kimmel is the only three-time winner in track history. Kimmel won three consecutive Kentucky races between May of 2001 and May of 2002. Should Kyle Busch score a "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" victory he would become the only driver in Kentucky Speedway history to win in consecutive starts in different series. Busch recorded his first Kentucky triumph on May 10, 2003 to become the youngest winner in Kentucky Speedway history at the age of 18-years and nine days.

How Do You Like Me Now?: Last season's "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" pole winner Stacy Compton set a new series qualifying record with a 176.384 mph lap, eclipsing Scott Riggs' previous record by 1.553 mph. Riggs destroyed Jay Sauter's original series track record of 171.860 mph by an even wider 2.971 mph margin in 2002.

Finding The Groove: NASCAR Busch Series drivers have increased the speed of their Kentucky Speedway events an average of 8.7665 mph each year since the inaugural race in 2001. Last season's "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" set the series track record with a speed of 136.123 mph. The inaugural event was the slowest at a 118.590 mph average. The 2002 event ranks second with an average speed of 127.164 mph. The 2003 average speed was 17.533 mph faster than the 2001 average speed.

Kickin' It Old School: Although the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series has unveiled its innovative 10-race "Chase for the NEXTEL Cup" scoring format this season, the NASCAR Busch Series continues to use the traditional points system and will not reset the standings for its top-10 drivers with 10 races remaining in the season.

I Have It , You Take It: NASCAR Busch Series drivers Kyle Busch and Martin Truex, Jr. have exchanged the series points lead three times in the past five races. Busch held the lead following Race 11, 13 and 14 while Truex, Jr., the current leader by 40 points over Busch, held the lead following Race 12 and Race 15. Truex, Jr. also was the leader following race 10.

Prolific Protege: Martin Truex, Jr., is taking on the driving personality of Chance 2 Motorsports team owner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Both drivers enter this week with the points lead in their respective series, Truex, Jr., in the Busch Series and Earnhardt, Jr., in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. Through 15 events, Truex, Jr., held the series lead in wins with four and top-five finishes with eight. He was tied with David Green for second in top-10 finishes with 10. Kyle Busch leads the series in top-10 finishes with 11. Truex, Jr., enters "The Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" with a 40-point lead over Kyle Busch.

Busch Streak Hits The Brakes: Kyle Busch's streak of 10 top-10 NBS finishes came to a screeching halt last Saturday in Nashville when his No.5 Lowe's ride cost him the race lead by running out of gas with four laps remaining. Busch finished 17th and slipped from the series points lead. His top-10 streak included wins at Richmond and Lowe's Motor Speedways and a total of seven top-five finishes. Busch returns to the site of his May 2003 ARCA RE/MAX Series win as the youngest winner in Kentucky Speedway history. Busch won "The Channel 5-205" last season at the age of 18 years and nine months.

Green, Green Grass of Home: 1994 NASCAR Busch Series champion David Green of Owensboro, Ky., missed out on his second career series championship last season when he finished second to Brian Vickers by a mere 14 points. Green is back in championship contention this season and is third in the series standings entering "The Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo." He has collected five top-five and 10 top-10 finishes this season. Green is tied with Martin Truex, Jr., for second in series top-10 finishes with 10. Green led the series standings for one week following his eighth-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway in the sixth event of the season. He posted his best Kentucky Speedway finish through three starts in the 2003 "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" when he placed eighth. He has posted an average finish of 21st in the five events in which he has not recorded a top-10 finish. Green made his 300th career NBS start on May 29 in Charlotte, N.C.

A Meijer Magic Moment: Defending "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" champion Bobby Hamilton, Jr., established himself and his No.25 Team Marines Ford team led by crew chief Harold Holly as a pre-season favorite to win the 2004 NASCAR Busch Series title after closing the final 12 events of the 2003 season with two wins and a total of nine top-five finishes. Hamilton, Jr., finished a career-best fourth in the standings and was 49 points away from his first career NBS championship. He credits his run to Holly, who joined the team two weeks before its first 2003 win at "The Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo." After starting the season with two top-five and four top-10 finishes through nine races, the No.25 team returned to form recently and has generated four top-five finishes through its past six starts. The team nearly missed a win at Nazareth, Pa., where Hamilton, Jr., was edged out by Martin Truex, Jr. Hamilton, Jr., began the week fourth in the NBS standings and trailed leader Truex, Jr., by 296 points. Hamilton, Jr., has started in the top-10 in each of his three Kentucky Speedway starts, but his 2003 win represents his only top-five and top-10 finish at the track.

Waltrip Waning: The drain of attempting to run the full NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and NASCAR Busch Series schedules this season seems to be catching up with Owensboro, Ky. driver Michael Waltrip. Waltrip began the year as one of the hottest drivers on the NASCAR Busch Series circuit by recording a win, three top-five and seven top-10 finishes through the first nine races. Since, he has generated an eighth-place finish at Nazareth, Pa., and an average finish of 19th in his past six starts. Despite the recent downturn for the No. 99 Aaron's Dream Machine Team, Waltrip will enter his competitive debut at Kentucky Speedway fifth in the NBS standings and 308 points off of Martin Truex, Jr.'s leading pace. Waltrip plans to miss an undetermined number of future NBS starts following "The Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" to give his team a chance to regroup. A Kentucky Speedway race might be just what the team needs because Waltrip frequently tests his NNCS ride at the track. Waltrip ended his 2003 NBS season at Homestead-Miami with his 200th career start.

Biffle's Back: Greg Biffle returns to Kentucky Speedway for his third career NASCAR Busch Series start at the track following a one-year hiatus. Biffle may have the inside track to Victory Lane at the speedway. He finished runner-up to Todd Bodine (2002) and Kevin Harvick (2001) in his previous NBS appearances and won the speedway's inaugural NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event in 2000. Biffle and Bodine's battle on June 16 was decided by .036 of a second in the third closest finish in Kentucky Speedway history. Biffle begins "The Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" weekend sixth in the series standings. He is second in series wins with three and has produced a total of five top-five and eight top-10 finishes. Biffle finished 20th in his first full NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season last year. He drove to his first NNCS win at Daytona in July and grabbed a total of three top-five and six top-10 finishes. Biffle begins this week 23rd in the NNCS standings. He owns one top-10 finish in 2004, an eighth-place showing at Atlanta.

Leapin' Leffler: Jason Leffler brought home his first career NASCAR Busch Series win in Lebanon, Tenn., last weekend in a weather-delayed affair. Leffler won a fuel-mileage battle over Kyle Busch, who's supply expired with four laps remaining. The win helped Leffler leap two spots in the series standings. He goes into "The Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" trailing Truex, Jr., by 379 points. Leffler has scored one win, three top-five and eight top-10 finishes. Look for his success to continue at Kentucky Speedway this weekend. He owns two top- five NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series finishes through two career starts at the track. In 2002, he won the pole and finished fifth and in 2003 he started fourth and finished fifth. Leffler snared his first career NASCAR win in the truck series on May 30, 2003 in Dover, Del.

Mr. Consistency: Jason Keller enters "The Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" eighth in the NBS standings and has spent the entire 15 weeks of the season in the top-10 in the series points standings. He has generated three top-five and six top-10 finishes to date this season, but lost two spots in the series standings following last Saturday's race in Nashville after an engine failure forced a 33rd-place finish. In his past six starts, Keller scored three straight top-five finishes at Gateway, Richmond and Nazareth but has averaged a 26th-place finish in his past three starts. Kentucky Speedway might be just the tonic Keller needs to cure his racing ills. Last season, he entered "The Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" having averaged a 14th-place finish in his previous three races. Keller stopped that slide with a second-place effort in "The Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" and posted a win at Milwaukee the following week. Keeping karma on his side, Keller picked up primary sponsorship from Meijer for this weekend's race. He has placed second in the series standings in both 2002 and 2000.

Junior's Seniority: Ron Hornaday, Jr., can deliver himself an early birthday present with a strong showing in this weekend's "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo." Hornaday, Jr., will turn 47 on June 20. He enters the race ninth in the series standings after posting three top-five and seven top-10 finishes through 15 starts. He finished last week's race in fifth place and is angling for his second straight top-five finish at Kentucky Speedway. He scored a third-place Kentucky NBS finish in the 2003. Hornaday, Jr., owns one of the most comprehensive NASCAR driving resumes and has competed in all three major divisions. He won NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series titles in 1996 and 1998, and was third in the NBS standings last season. He made his 130th career NBS start at Dover, Del., this season and entered the year having led 1004 race laps during his six-year NBS career.

Nine's Are Wild For Wallace: Veteran NBS driver Kenny Wallace returns to the series full time this season after spending last season in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series ranks with his current NBS sponsor, Stacker2. Wallace begins this week 10th in the NBS standings with five top-10 finishes so far this season. Four of those five have been ninth-place performances. Wallace scored three of those in a row at Richmond, Va., Nazareth, Pa., and Charlotte, N.C., earlier this season. Coincidentally, Wallace finished ninth after starting 37th in the 2003 "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo." Wallace finished 30th in the 2003 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series standings after posting one top-10 finish at Bristol, Tenn. Wallace will make his 300th career NBS start at Indianapolis Raceway Park on August 7.

NASCAR BUSCH SERIES NOTABLES

Hot Commodity: Kasey Kahne's win in the NBS season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway last season proved to be an omen of his 2004 success in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and Busch Series. Kahne begins the week 11th in the NBS standings after charting three top-five and six top-10 finishes this season. Kahne has finished seventh and sixth in his past two NBS starts. He made an even larger impact on the NNCS by beginning his rookie year by finishing in the top-three in three of his first four races. He is currently 13th in the NNCS standings with four top-five finishes. Three of those have been second-place efforts.

King Of The Road, Any Road: Robby Gordon is one of the most versatile drivers in racing and joins Michael Waltrip as one of two NBS driver/team owner combinations in the 2004 "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo." Gordon begins the week 13th in the NBS standings after collecting three top-five and six top-10 finishes through 13 series starts. Gordon missed races at Nazareth, Pa., and Charlotte, N.C., when he committed to run both the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series "Coca-Cola 600" in Charlotte, N.C., on May 30. Gordon left Indianapolis after the race was delayed on Lap 27, giving way to relief driver Jacques Lazier. Gordon was credited with a 29th-place finish in Indianapolis and finished 20th in Charlotte. He is 18th in the NNCS standings with two top-five and three top-10 finishes. Gordon also has made starts in Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and the Baja 1000 off-road race. Gordon also owns an off-road outfitter shop.

A Moment Like This: "The Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" presents another opportunity for part-time circuit driver Clint Bowyer to shine in the spotlight. Bowyer is sharing the No.21 Reese's Chevrolet with NNCS regular Kevin Harvick this season. Bowyer has made six series starts this season and posted two top-five finishes. Both of those came at Nashville. He finished fourth in the April race at the track and third in last week's affair. Bowyer nearly won the April race, but a late-race pile-up knocked him out of the lead in the closing laps. He is officially 33rd in the series standings. The career Late Model driver won the 2002 Midwest Region championship and the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series. He also won track championships in Kansas City and Odessa, Mo. that same year.

Back On Track: Mike Bliss, the 2002 NCTS Kentucky Speedway race winner, is back on track in the NBS after posting his first top-five and fourth top-10 finish of the season at Nashville last weekend. He is 12th in the series standings this week. Bliss finished 11th in his NBS Kentucky Speedway debut last year. He generated the all-time widest margin of victory in Kentucky Speedway history of 18.198 seconds in his 2002 NCTS win.

The Guy Behind The Guy: Due to scheduling conflicts with the NEXTEL Cup Series, several drivers will play a back-up role at Kentucky Speedway for NNCS drivers attempting to complete the "Kentucky-Michigan Double" this weekend. In a similar situation last week in Nashville, Tyler Walker qualified and practiced the No.38 Great Clips Dodge for Kasey Kahne and Mike McLaughlin stood in for Greg Biffle in the No.60 Charter Communications Ford. Either Randy LaJoie or Mike Burg will help out Michael Waltrip and the No.99 Aaron's Dream Machine. Buckshot Jones will take command of the No.1 Yellow Transportation Dodge usually occupied by Jamie McMurray and compete in the race.

NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division Southeast Series "The Kentucky 150"

Midwestern Merger: Expect several drivers from the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division Midwestern Series to join their Southeast Series counterparts at Kentucky Speedway this weekend. The top four NAEDSS drivers are Jason Hogan, Erik Darnell (-36), Jeff Fultz (-49) and J.R. Norris (-51). Through two series races this season, the top nine NAEDMS drivers are separated by 95 points and the top three are separated by 10 points. NAEDMS leaders are Steve Carlson, Brian Hoppe (-5) and Justin Diercks (-10).

Formidable Force: Erik Darnell is becoming a formidable force in the NAEDSS and at Kentucky Speedway. He has registered three top-five and five top-10 finishes through five series starts this season. His season-best second-place finish came at Hickory Motor Speedway in April. Darnell earned his best Kentucky-best second- place finish in his third career start at the track in 2003. Darnell finished 25th and 28th two Kentucky starts in 2002.

Hogan's A Hero: NAEDSS points leader Jason Hogan enters "The Kentucky 150" looking for his third victory of the season. Hogan owns three top-five and four top-10 finishes through five starts, including wins at Hickory Motor Speedway and Houston Motor Speedway. His best Kentucky Speedway performance through three starts was a 13th-place finish in the 2003 "Kentucky 150"

Cincinnati Kid: Two-time Kentucky Speedway NAEDSS winner Jeff Fultz hails from Cincinnati, Ohio. He is third all-time in series earnings with more than $400,000. Fultz won the 2002 series championship and was runner-up for top series honors in 2003, 2000 and 1997. Speed Demon: Two-time Kentucky Speedway NAEDSS winner Scott Carlson owns the series track qualifying record after turning a 157.274 mph lap in August of 2002. He won that race and returned in 2003 to take a second straight win from the pole in in the only caution-free race in the speedway history. Carlson's average speed of 153.278 mph and 7.283 second margin of victory from that race are series track records.

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